Mountain of Peace

This is a recount of adventures in Japan last fall. I’m a little late posting but wanted to share this wonderful journey.

After a week in a high energy big city, I found myself so excited about hiking up a quiet mountainside that I woke up super early. I stared at the clock, willing the time to pass. Filled with positive energy, I couldn’t wait to put on my hiking boots.I had thoroughly enjoyed all the activities that we had been engaged in. Seeing a totally different part of the world had been fun and adventurous. But my being was craving nature and a different energy wavelength. The hike that I was about to do would offer that and more.After a couple of trains and filling the pack with water and food, we started our climb.As per our experience so far, every local person we encountered went out of their way to make sure we were on the right track.As soon as we stepped into the forest and started our trek up the trail, my inner being sunk into a peaceful energy. The climb started immediately and it was steep! I fell into that old pattern of finding my flow. The one where my physical, mental and spiritual beings all align with each other, and with nature.The sounds of nature sung around us. We relished in the squeaking of monkeys and the otherwise silence. Occassionally the trees would crack and creak in the breeze.No people. No buildings. Just us, the monkeys and the forest.The trail had many steep stretches. It was hard work, but it felt good. I fell into the rhythm I knew well. My husband told me of the 1000 day challenge. The trail is a pilgrimage path, and monks do it every day for 1000 days, fasting for 10 consecutive days during the challenge. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was working hard.Reaching the peak was rewarding. The view was stunning. We rested and had a picnic. No fasting for me.The real reward, however, was quite unexpected. A little more hiking took us to the Dai Ko-do temple (beside Bell Tower). We removed our boots, slid the door open and entered. We sat cross legged. I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply. The scent of incense filled me. It calmed me. My mind was clear.Before leaving, I participated in the purchase (by donation) of an incense stick that you light and place in a bowl among others. It is intended to be in memory of someone. I took a moment for silent reflection.The descent was awesome. There was a bus that took us down the mountain and within blocks of our hotel!A shower and happy hour were waiting for us. The zen feeling lasted into the evening. Now I’m going to crave meditation on every mountain peak.

Where Did Julie and Her Bike Go?

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything here on my ‘Just A Girl And A Bike’ site. I assure you, I have not gone away. I’m still here. I’m still just a girl. I’m still riding my bike. And I’m still raising money for World Bicycle Relief, one book at a time.

I’m doing lots of other things now too. Hiking has become a big part of my life. My last posts were about some amazing hikes I did in Utah (Climb Like a Spider to Angel’s Landing), and a trip to my local mountains to ride, hike, and sell books (Reflections from the Mountains).

I was still travelling until the lockdown happened. I was lucky enough to get in a trip to Japan and to San Diego before it all happened. I did write some posts, but didn’t publish them. Stay tuned….

I’ve also launched myself onto a path of becoming a fiction writer. This has kept me quite busy – and is the reason that I have not pampered my traveling, biking, hiking, inspirational blog the way I once did. For that I am sorry, and I miss it, but…sometimes you have to focus and you can’t do everything. I am happy to say that because I buckled down and worked hard, I launched my debut novel last January.

Final Track - FRONT

If you like MindHunter, Hannibal, Criminal Minds…you might like my novel – Final Track.

If you like dark crime, horror, and 80s metal…you can check out my new site. KillersAndDemons – a toxic cocktail of 80s metal, ritualistic murder, and raw horror. You will also find the occasional inspirational post there as well (it is in my nature). And, you will find lots of cool stuff – free short stories (right now you get Where’s Benji if you sign up for the newsletter), story time (Creepy Readings with Demon Julie) and a plethora of other cool and fun stuff. Stop on by!

 

Newsletter2Although my ‘new’ creative path seems totally different than the one conveyed here on this site, there are some glaring similarities. I still write inspirational posts – I can’t help it. I still write about my passions (music, 80s, reading, writing) – just slightly different passions than the outdoor adventure focus here. I’m still in the posts, in the stories, and in the website. It’s still me. Just a different side of me.

 

 

104385072_1005311676549685_2396385641008336064_nI was recently interviewed by an author I totally admire (Daniel Willcocks) on his podcast called Great Writers Share. I’ve posted it here so you can have a listen. It was eye opening and quite refreshing to see that no matter what I choose to focus on or to write – I am still Julie. Now, I’m not Just A Girl and a Bike – I’m also Bon Julie, Demon Julie…and who knows what other Julie’s are lurching within 🙂

Listen to Great Writers Share | with Daniel Willcocks

It’s been a long journey. Stay here for more outdoor and travel adventure blogs. Come along with me at KillersAndDemons for dark tales of crime and horror coated with 80s metal, or follow both – whatever suits your taste.

Stay tuned for some good memories from a fascinating adventure in Japan last fall.

The Power of Inspiration

I’m just coming off of a whirl wind four day of attending a local, award winning, writing conference. I have posted about When Words Collide before (Inspiration, Creativity and Community at When Words Collide), but every time I attend I end up completely compelled to share.

This year was my fourth time attending. Thus, only three years ago, I showed up at this massive conference and I didn’t know anybody. At that time, I had written my book ‘Just a Girl and a Bike’, but I had no idea how to put it together and get it out there. My goal was simply for even one person to read it and feel inspired and infused with belief in themselves. Well, I’ll be honest, tears are trickling right now as I write this, because that goal has been surpassed. And not just because I have been able to get my book into many hands of people who needed the message within, but because this time at When Words Collide I had a profound and touching experience.

The second time I attended When Words Collide, I signed up to give a presentation on steps to self-publish. I was terrified – I questioned what I really knew. But, I had learned that this conference was about sharing with each other what we had learned along the way. It was a fantastic experience. I did the presentation the next year, and again this year.

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Reflections from the Mountains

I’m back from a very full two days in the mountains. After a solid two days of non-stop adventure, my heart is full of gratitude. Living so close to some of the most beautiful mountains is absolutely amazing. Every time I make the trip out, I come back feeling renewed and alive. My being feels open. My soul is infused with a energy and a sense of peace and calm.

The trip was oriented around a fitness expo, paired with the Banff Marathon. The expo itself is a beautifully run little event. People from all over the world come to run through the mountains, participating in the full marathon, half marathon, or 10 km run. The expo is set up such that participants come through to pick up their race packages, and have an opportunity to peruse the vendors. I have been fortunate to be able to be part of this as Just A Girl and a Bike for several years now.

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It’s always exciting to sell a book, of course. But, the conversations I end up having and the connections I end up making are what really stick in my mind. All sorts of people with a wide range of experience show up to run. I find myself relating whole heartedly to those who have never done this beforeor have nervous energy all over their face. I love that I can relate, talk to them, and perhaps even help them to focus their minds and their energy.

This year, after talking to a lady who was quite worried about the run, she said to me, “Thank you. I really needed that.” She walked away with a smile. Now, that made my heart sing.

So, not only did I sell some books, and selling books means more money raised for World Bicycle Relief, but I talked to many amazing people. And, I made a connection that could turn into a wonderful opportunity to encourage girls to be confident, seek the activities they love, and find their whole selves. Yes. I’m excited.

Now, of course, being in the mountains, I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to get in some activities. I LOVE activities. I went up early the first morning and snuck in a bit of cycling. I was able to do a short, sweet loop up to Lake Minnewanka, with enough climbing to get my heart pumping.

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On the way up, I saw about eight or so mountain sheep, with babies! On the way down, I rolled right by two moose munching away at the gras on the side of the road. What an experience. These animals are truly magnificent, majestic, and have an aura of calm about them. I was even able to sneak in a side trip to Johnson Lake, adding on a couple more km and a wee bit more climbing.

I just felt SO good to be on my bike, surrounded by mountains, the fresh air kissing my face, and the essence of nature infusing my soul.

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After a long second day of talking, interacting, and being ‘on’, I unplugged by hiking aggressively up a series of switchbacks to the top of Sulfur Mountain. The peace and quiet of nature, the smell of the trail, the fresh air, and the earth, and the general calm that clings to the air on such a trail, absolutely refreshed me after expelling so much energy.

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Of course, I was happy to be home, in my own bed, back in my sanctuary. And now here I sit, writing, reflecting, and feeling happy and full of life. What an amazing place to live, so close to such mountains. And what a wonderful path I have been taking on by sharing my own story of facing my fears.

Climb Like a Spider to Angel’s Landing

Angels Landing, a plateau at the peak of a red rock face, perched in the heart of Zion National Park.

2.5 miles of strenuous hiking up multiple series of switchbacks, including Walter’s Wiggles, takes you to the landing point where some will stay while others scramble to the final landing. Two long series of chains bolted into the rock with steel poles provide a safety net from the 1000 foot drop offs.

I wasn’t sure what the trail would really be like. I knew the distances. I knew the height gain. I know what it feels like to hike up long, steep descents. I have done some scrambling. But I wasn’t sure what these chained sections would be like.

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My first attempt at reaching the summit of Angel’s Landing, I had taken the first shuttle of the day from the town beside Zion park. I darted across the park entrance to catch the next shuttle up the canyon. I disembarked at the Grotto stop, along with dozens of other eager hikers. The herd quickly thinned as the climbing grew strenuous. At the top, many other hikers already milled about. The first series of chains wasn’t nearly as challenging as I thought it would be. I stood on the flat section before the second series, looking up at a daunting rocky climb. I wanted to do it. But, all I could think about was the growing number of people, of various hiking abilities, streaming both up and down sections only wide enough for one. The communication was minimal. The chaos was growing. I didn’t feel this was something I should do. Or that I wanted to do under these conditions.

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Big Mountains, Strong Mind, Full Heart

My life has been changed by the many mountains that I have climbed on my bicycle, chasing my husband up to the peak. Or, sometimes, simply survivingone painful pedal stroke at a time. A little over two years ago, my husband had a grand vision to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc. As things in life sometimes go, this dream did not come true. The recap of this adventure can be seen here. However, as you can always do, if you choose to, we turned the disappointment into an entirely unexpected adventure.

This year, life has brought us some very unexpected, and challenging, things. It hasn’t been easy, at times. But, as my husband always does, he lead us in a path of finding peace and happiness in even the most challenging and heart breaking times. As the year progressed, things were settling back into a new normal. I will admit, I was craving something really challenging. I think we both needed an adventure. So, when he presented the idea of returning to France for a second go at Tour du Mont Blanc, my heart soared with excitement.

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The Tour du Mont Blanc is a 170 km circular hiking route around Mont Blanc. My husband’s version ended up being 200 km with about 10,000 metres of ascent throughout. The route takes you through France, Italy and Switzerland. You can book spots in refuges to enable you to hike with only one day of food and water and no tent. The refuges aren’t glamorous, but, the mountains make you forget every cramped little dormitory you wedged yourself into or three minute cold shower you had.

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Writers Helping Writers: BIG REVEAL!!!

Have you ever held onto a secret you’ve been dying to share, and then finally…you can?

For the last few weeks I’ve been helping Angela and Becca at Writers Helping Writers keep a BIG secret…what the next book in their thesaurus series will be.

It might seem strange to not tell one’s readers what book you’re planning to release…unless you happen to write books on Show, Don’t Tell like Angela and Becca do! They couldn’t resist the opportunity to show, not tell, by waiting for the cover reveal. They even created a *REDACTED* cover for it, which you might have seen floating around.

We’re revealing the cover at long last!

*drum roll*

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The Angry Bug Invasion

I stood off to the side near the line starting to form as people eagerly awaited their chance to board the plan to sparkly Las Vegas. Yay, Vegas. The thought had permeated my mind only the day before, causing vibrations of excitement to sizzle their way through me. Now, that thought couldn’t be further away if it was on the moon.

The world around me was blurry. I knew the people were lining up. I knew my zone hadn’t been called yet. But all I really cared about was the invasion taking over me. I wasn’t myself. I didn’t feel right. I felt downright weird. I knew something bad was going to happen. I was beginning to think it was going to happen soon. Very soon.

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In times like these, your most basic, primal bodily instincts kick in. My eyes darted around frantically, landing on the restroom sign on the other side of the room. My mouth was moving, words were coming out, I was telling my husband that I would be back in a moment. I floated over to the sign, my body taking over. I was in autopilot, simply doing what needed to be done. Whatever bug was inside of me had begun it’s invasion.

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Surviving My First NaNoWrimo: Lessons Learned

I wrote and published one, single, lonely book. I chose the self-publishing route for this very personal, non-fiction story in which I open up about my struggles with anxiety and weight by facing a very big mountain, equipped with nothing but a bicycle. During this time, I found myself starting to encounter a whole new world – the world of writing. Many a time I heard the word NaNoWrimobut never really understood what it was.

20180331_110417About a year ago I made the decision to embark on the long, daunting, unknown journey of writing my first fiction novel. There were many stops and restarts due to, well, life. However, I found myself wanting, even needing to continue with this journey I had started, and to see if I could indeed write a novel.

As November approached, I again heard murmurs of this mysterious NaNoWrimo thing. Then, a dear friend of mine, and very accomplished editor and author, told me I should just do it with the goal to reach a word count that would complete my first draft. The premise of NaNoWrimo (National Novel Writing Month) is to write the first draft of a novel in a month. But, you can frame the challenge in your own way.

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Chasing Dreams on a Mountainside

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A couple of years ago, my husband and I travelled to Chamonix, France. The dream was to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc. A 180 km hiking route covering about 10,000 metres of climbing. When we showed up, our excitement was crushed. The snow levels had been high, and the melting process was taking longer than usual. Sections of the trail were closed. Not even guided tour groups were passing through. The Tour de Mont Blanc wasn’t going to happen for us.

Dreams don’t always come true when we expect them to. It doesn’t mean that we should give up on them.

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